The idea that some people have is that being gay is a choice and that you can change yourself is ridiculous. But for some people, especially teens, who are brought up in an environment where they are taught what they feel and think is wrong, sets them on a path of self-destruction or an unhappy life or worse. There are ‘camps’ and ‘clinics’ that believe they can change who someone is and believe they are helping. The obvious reaction to this way of thinking is anger, rage and rebellion, but Desiree Akhavan’s film takes a different approach. Exploring whether there is another way to find out whom you are when faced with such judgment.
After being caught with another girl in the back seat of a car on Prom night, teenager Cameron Post is sent to a ‘treatment’ center where she is forced to take part in gay conversion therapy. A tyrannical doctor and her reverend brother who is ‘cured’ of his same sex attractions run the center. Cameron meets other teenagers who were brought to the center against their will. Some of them really believe they can be cured, others just say what the doctor wants to hear. Cameron goes through stages of confusion and doubt but already knows who she is.
Like the book of the same name by Emily M. Danforth, the film is also set in 1993. A time of no Internet, no easily accessible phones or computers or easy escapes. For young teens that were struggling to find out who they are, finding a community, especially if stuck in an overly religious one, was difficult. For the teenagers stuck in the center, as Cameron says later in the film, they are being brain washed to hate themselves. The few teens that are comfortable with who they are fare better. They see the ‘therapy’ as biding their time until they are allowed to leave.
Through Cameron’s time, she is asked to complete a task, an iceberg where they have to write down all the reasons for their same sex attraction. Cameron at first is unsure what to write as there are obviously no reasons. Looking at the other teenager’s icebergs, she starts to see why they might believe they have issues. As she digs deeper within herself, there is a realization that she doesn’t need to accept herself, its that the people who run the center, her aunt who sent her there and even the girl she thought felt the same way, who have a problem. Making friends with fellow attendees Jane and Adam, Cameron is able to be free, creating their own little community.
Throughout the film the teenagers at the camp/center are subjected to mental abuse, but after a tragic incident, the police arrive to investigate how everyone is treated.
Akhavan offers a different point of view with her film, showing how people can be mislead. With a sensitive subject like gay conversion camps or centers, she delicately handles the characters and their views, leaving room for important questions and as an audience we are able to see the whole picture.
Dir: Desiree Akhavan
Prd: Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub, Jonathan Montepere, Cecilia Frugiuele
Scr: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
Based on: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher, Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich and Jennifer Ehle
DoP: Ashley Connor
Music: Julian Wass
Running time: 90 minutes